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Geoscience Communication An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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https://doi.org/10.5194/gc-2019-4
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/gc-2019-4
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 15 Mar 2019

Research article | 15 Mar 2019

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Geoscience Communication (GC).

Taking a Breath of the Wild: Are geoscientists more effective than non-geoscientists in determining whether game-world landscapes are realistic?

Rolf Hut1, Casper Albers2, Sam Illingworth3, and Chris Skinner4 Rolf Hut et al.
  • 1Delft University of Technology, Delft, The Netherlands
  • 2University of Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands
  • 3Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester, UK
  • 4University of Hull, Hull, UK

Abstract. From the wilderness of Hyrule, the entire continent of Tamriel, to Middle Earth, players of videogames are exposed to wonderous, fantastic, but ultimately fake, landscapes. Given the time people may spend in these worlds, compared to the time they spend being trained in geoscience, we wondered if expert geoscientists would differ from non-geoscientists in whether they judge the landscapes in these games to be realistic. Since games have a great opportunity for tangential learning it would be a missed opportunity if it turns out that features obviously fake to geoscientists are perceived as plausible by non-geoscientists.

To satisfy our curiosity and answer this question we conducted a survey where we asked people to judge both photos from real landscapes as well as screenshots from the recent The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild videogame on how likely they thought the features in the picture were to exist in the real world. Since game-world screenshots are easily identified based on their rendered, pixaleted nature, we pre-processed all pictures with an artistic Van Gogh filter that removed the rendered nature, but retained the dominant landscape features.

We found that there is a small but significant difference between geoscientists and non-geoscientists with geoscientists being slightly better at judging which pictures are from the real world versus from the game world. While significant the effect is small enough to conclude that fantastical worlds in games can be used for tangential learning on geoscientific subjects.

Rolf Hut et al.
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Status: open (until 10 May 2019)
Status: open (until 10 May 2019)
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Rolf Hut et al.
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Taking a Breath of the Wild C. Albers and R. Hut https://doi.org/10.17605/OSF.IO/53VDS

Rolf Hut et al.
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Short summary
Game worlds in modern computergames, while they include very earth-like landscapes, are ultimately fake. Since games can be used for learning we wondered if people pick up wrong information from games. Using a survey we tested if people with a background in geoscience are better than people without such a background at distinguishing if game-world landscapes are realistic. We found that geoscientist are significantly better at this, but the difference is small and overall everyone is good at it.
Game worlds in modern computergames, while they include very earth-like landscapes, are...
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